How to Get Around Santorini Like a Pro
This page has what you’ll need to know, in order to best learn about how to get around Santorini. For those of us who grew up reading (and watching) The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, Santorini is the romantic Greek getaway island that Lena Kaligaris spends her summers blossoming and flourishing in; for avid hip hop fans, it’s the title and setting for Rick Ross’ Santorini Greece music video, for gamers and Assassin’s Creed players, it contains a temple that hides away the entryway to the secret city of Atlantis.
Still doesn’t ring a bell? For those of you who still haven’t caught on, Santorini (pronounced san-doe-rini) and also known as Thira (or Thera) is a small island in Greece, located south of the Aegean Sea and approximately 200 km from the Greek mainland. It is one of Greece’s (and arguably the planet’s) most picturesque islands, known for its scenic hillsides, hauntingly gorgeous sunsets, and breathtaking seascapes.
There is no doubt about the ample – almost legendary – myths surrounding the location and adding to its natural appeal. In fact, the Assassin’s Creed storyline may not be too far from the truth; quite a few notable books and documentaries have been made to suggest that Santorini may well be the source of Plato’s inspiration for the Atlantis legend. The myths don’t stop there, though. There are biblical suggestions that link eruptions in the island to the exodus; this story has been fuel for books, films, and documentaries alike.
Besides all of that, what you also need to know is that it is believed that a volcanic eruption in Santorini – the largest ever recorded – may be a direct reason for the decline and subsequent collapse of the Minoan Civilization. Artifacts from the civilization are, even today, a great source of archeological interest in the island.
Because of its cosmologically gorgeous natural beauty, historical significance, archeological importance, and legendary background, Santorini has always been a hub for tourists.
Going on vacation? Planning a honeymoon? Love to explore? Santorini is where it’s all at!
Although it is a small island having a population of less than 16,000, Santorini can still be hard to travel through and enjoy. This is what we’re here for! Like the title suggests, this article is a short guide on how to get around Santorini like a pro – and have the time of your life doing it!
First thing’s first: being a Greek island, Greek is the primary language spoken in Santorini. This basically means that most signs and maps, etc. will not be written in English. Thus, knowing the basic Greek alphabet (or even being able to ask around) is a valuable skill that is bound to make it easier for any tourist to the island.
Another point to note is that although travelling with family, especially small children, can be delightful, it may not be the best idea to take them along on your Greek holiday. The reason being that the weather can get very hot, the wait for buses and public transport is quite long, walks, although easy for adults, may be extremely strenuous for little kids. All these may be the reason that your kids may not be able to enjoy the vacation as much as you would.
When it comes to travelling within Santorini, one thankfully has a lot of options. These include walking (possibly tiring but worth it!), donkey rides (discouraged, leave the poor animals alone!), car rentals, buses, taxis, boats, and even quads and cable cars.
All of these alternatives more than make up for the fact that, unfortunately, Uber and Lyft do not operate in Santorini. If you do encounter them nevertheless, beware! As they may be running illegally. We’ve compiled a handy list of all the available alternatives below, along with estimates of price and other stuff that is important for you to know.
Estimated cost: about $25 for taxis
Santorini.com offers shuttle and ferry transportation to and from the airport and port for all. It operates for 24 hours and offers free water to all customers. How’s that for service! They request that trips with them be booked 12 hours in advance so that they have vehicles and drivers well prepared and en route when the time comes. This can be done on their website.
Some hotels offer this service as well. The price depends on the hotel; some charge exorbitant fees (in which case you should just book a taxi), while other premium establishments provide this transport for free.
Taxis are another option, however, please don’t rely on them. There are only ever a small number of taxis on site (less than ten at a time), and they quickly get booked by tourists. New taxis take about half an hour to get to the site. This can be a long wait! It’s better to have a backup plan in case you aren’t able to get a taxi in time. Be prepared for a 20 to 25 minutes long drive from the airport to your hotel.
Traveling around Santorini On Foot
Estimated cost: completely free!
Tourism has been taking place in Santorini long before our time. This means that people have been coming and going there without buses and cars. How do they do it? The answer is: quite wonderfully!
Santorini on foot is one of the most rewarding experiences you could sign yourself up for. It gives you the freedom to choose your own destinations and break spots (for the weakling (we’re joking) among us) in your own time. It also lets you explore all the territories where buses and taxis dare not go. Travelling on foot means you take in all that fresh air and experience those heavenly and romantic sunsets firsthand and not through a window.
Of course, we can’t help but insist that the walk involves quite a lot of exertion. It’s definitely not a good idea if you have children or elderly friends and family with you. Do them a kindness and choose another (safer) option. It’s also best to skip walking if you suffer from any illness that compromises your lungs and muscles. Also watch out for cow dung on the ground. Don’t worry, there’s so many other wonderful options to explore the island.
If you’re healthy (and lucky) enough to be able to make the walk, good for you! Be sure to grab a map (English translations are most helpful), some sunscreen, a hat and some shades. Don’t forget to also take a large water bottle! What’s in store for your exciting on foot excursion to the island? Grab your camera and find out! Your soul, lungs, and instagram feed will thank you.
Traveling around Santorini on Donkeys
Estimated cost: unavailable
Besides walking on foot, it has also been a tradition to travel through the island on the backs of donkeys. During Greek weddings, it was customary to have the bride travel to and from the marriage galloping (or more like clunk-clunking) on a donkey.
Please note that this was a long time ago when tourism to the island was scarce. Today, donkeys cannot sustain the large influx of tourists that flock to the island and are often overworked and sickly. This is why we don’t recommend this particular option. In fact, a lot of tourism websites about Santorini don’t even include this mode of travel on their pages in order to discourage donkey travel.
It is often believed that there are some tracks on Santorini having beautiful and exquisite scenery that are only accessible on donkey backs. Please note that these tracks are quite slippery and bendy and the journey is almost always quite bumpy and dangerous.
It’s often advised to leave the young ones at home for this one as it can be quite dangerous for them and they might get injured. If they are lucky enough to avoid that fate, you’d still constantly worry about them falling. That really takes away from the charm of the trip. So does eventual motion sickness.
Traveling around Santorini in Buses
Estimated cost: about $3.00 one way
KTEL buses are one of the most inexpensive modes of travel on Santorini. The fact that you don’t have to worry about driving or about taking care of gas is an added bonus. They run from the main station to all major destinations, including all the villages. If you want to move from destination to destination, you will have to change buses. Tickets are purchased from inside the bus, so finding a seat is the first thing you should take care of. Most buses operate until midnight on weekdays.
A great disadvantage to buses, however, is that they do not go to the smaller and lesser known (but sometimes most exciting) areas. If you wouldn’t want to miss out on these secret settings, another option may be best. Buses are also sometimes very overcrowded and have quite long waiting times. Be prepared for that!
Traveling around Santorini in Taxis
Estimated cost: around $5.00 to $30.00
Taxis in Santorini are all usually silver and grey Mercedes. They are extremely hard to find and keep track of during the tourist season (some have gone as far as to say that there are more donkeys than taxis in Santorini) so it’s best to book them in advance.
Unlike buses, taxis are available to drive to the majority of locations on the island. The trip is more luxurious than bus rides too. Another plus is that you can avoid long waits and overcrowding on the vehicle by just opting for a taxi.
It’s good to know that there’s a taxi stand in the main square at Fira Town. There are other taxi stands throughout the island too. At the time of this writing, you may also call +302286022555 or 22860/22-555 or 22860/23-951 to book a taxi.
Taxi fare usually varies depending on distances and time of day. Be wary that taxi prices are usually fixed for established routes. Be sure to know the fare before you start the journey, there’s no haggling later on. If you summon a taxi from outside Fira, you’ll be charged a pick up fee of about $2.00. You’ll also need to pay the driver for their journey from Fira to where you call them.
Some taxis wait at the airports and port to pick tourists from arrival or come with them upon departure. However, these are very few and get booked in seconds, so you need to hurry if you badly want to catch them.
Taxis are also useful for late night trips since the bus service shuts down after midnight. Finding a cab so late can be challenging. The price also hikes to double during these late hours. Perhaps this is worth it because of the magnificent moon soaked sights that the island has to offer at night. For more information, check out our post about Santorini nightlife.
Although most taxi drivers are proficient in English, it is still recommended to know some Greek alphabet or have a translation guide handy in order to best communicate.
Our final suggestion regarding taxis is that if you have to go to different destinations, you’ll have to book multiple taxis. If this is the case, it will inevitably become very pricey and so it’s a good idea to consider another option. Car rentals are the way to go then.
Traveling around Santorini via Car and Bike Rentals
Estimated cost: Around $30.00 to $40.00
Budget Rent-A-Car, Hertz Rent-A-Car, Sixt, and Avis are some examples of companies that offer car rental service in Santorini. These services are available at all times of day and have both automatic cars and stick shifts.
Renting a car or bike is a better option than buses since you can go to any destination you please on them and don’t have to wait too long in lines. It is more economic than a taxi for when you need to change destinations often. Renting a vehicle is just more flexible and private.
Rental costs vary depending on the vehicle and the tourist season. Cars in Santorini are driven on the right side of the road. It’s also a good idea to get full insurance for the vehicle.
Moreover, there are several no park zones on the island. Parking here may result in a heavy fine. Always be vigilant about free parking areas. Unfortunately, these are often full too. But hey, don’t blame Santorini, it’s a heavenly island! That’s why you’re there in the first place.
You must also have a European driver’s license to be able to rent a car. Have it on you to avoid any issues.
Don’t get lost alone, though! Also remember that the roads of Santorini are very bumpy and narrow. Other vehicles may also pose a threat since most drivers are tourists themselves. I’d skip on this option if I wasn’t very confident in my driving skills, and you should too.
Traveling around Santorini with an ATV or Moped
Estimated cost: about $30.00
Want to make the most of your trip and are looking for something more daring? Renting a moped is the choice for you! Besides the thrill factor (wind brushing in your hair, adrenaline in your veins, you get the picture), what’s amazing about this option is that it allows for a more flexible trip, letting you go to areas that most travellers on buses and taxis don’t get to go.
Most travel agencies or car rental services can help set you up with an ATV / Moped. According to law, you must also have a motorcycle license and wear a helmet. It’s best to use your own helmet since it’s possible that the agency won’t supply one.
It goes without saying that although it’s the most fun, Moped / ATV is also the most dangerous option. Because of the rough terrain, bumpy roads, and inexperienced drivers, accident rates are high. If you’re determined to move around on a two wheeler still, be sure to have an emergency plan in place and know the location of a few hospitals having emergency rooms.
Traveling around Santorini in Boats
Estimated cost: about $6.00
If legends of Atlantis are what drew you to Santorini, your trip would be incomplete without a boat ride. Besides being relaxing, these rides were experienced tour guides go deep into the legends of the Atlantis myth.
There are also boats that travel from the port to different volcanic sites or areas like the hot springs. Ferries are also available to travel to different islets. Just don’t get seasick!
The Bottom Line
So there you have it, folks! A complete guide to getting around Santorini like a pro. After reading this article, you should have realized that there’s a lot of options available to you and it’s best to decide transport choices beforehand to avoid last minute confusions and inconveniences. So, what’s the best option? Depends on your trip! If you’re travelling with children or the elderly, a lot of these options are a no-no.
Buses are crowded but great for a structured trip without having to worry about a car. Speaking of cars, rentals do give you the most freedom to experience the island on your own terms. Like I said, it all depends on your trip so it’s best to plan it beforehand. Don’t forget your map and Greek dictionary, though, you won’t be able to get around Santorini like a pro without them!