If you’re visiting the beautiful island of Santorini there are a few options available in terms of transportation. If you want to wait and see how you feel about things after you arrive then I would definitely recommend at least having something organised for getting to your hotel. So let’s start there…
Getting to and from Athinios Port or Santorini Airport
First off, check whether your accommodation offers either semi-private or private transfers. Some include it in the cost of your stay and others will charge an extra fee for it. If you’re not picking up a car at the port or airport then this can be one of the simplest ways of doing things.
The drivers normally wait right by the airport arrivals or boat’s exit ramp holding a sign with your name. The port especially gets really chaotic in the peak season so this is really helpful. The driver will normally assist with your luggage at both ends too. So it’s an all-round stress-free option.
If your hotel/villa doesn’t offer a transfer service then you can book something separately. There are a number of options and you could try:
Other Transfer Services
When you get off the boat there are mini-buses waiting that will transfer you and several other passengers to your various hotels. If you’re stuck then it could be an option for you but be wary.
I arrived on a delayed ferry at about 3am. I was supposed to be collecting a hire car to drive to Oia but the booking got cancelled while I was travelling. A minibus transfer to Oia seemed like a better idea than the public bus to Fira and then trying to get transport for the next leg.
I checked with the drivers (at the place in the picture) where they were going and they said “everywhere”. But when they came to take my payment they were like, uh no we’re not going all the way to Oia, by which time the public bus had left. So I got stranded at the port at stupid o’clock in the morning.
I’ve also heard a few horror stories about people being charged extortionate amounts there too. So barter them down if you need to. Where possible I’d really recommend booking something in advance or taking the bus.
Speaking of which, there’s a bus that runs from Athinios Port to Fira bus station. It costs 2 euro (2.30 after midnight) and takes about 20 minutes. It drops you off at the main bus station in Fira, next to the taxis.
The timetable is only published 2 days ahead and is based on the ship arrivals. So to return to the port you need to go to the bus station in Fira and check the times for your departure day.
When you get on the bus put your luggage under the bus because there’s no space for it inside.
Some of the doors are opened automatically by the driver. Others, like the one in the picture, have handles to lift. If it’s like that it’s fine to go ahead and open the door(s) if you need to and put your luggage in.
There will be taxis waiting when you arrive at either the ferry port or the airport. Normally there aren’t loads at the port though so don’t count on this as an option. (Santorini only has 39 taxis on the island.)
You may need to take a card with the driver’s number and wait for him to come back after dropping off someone else.
Approximate taxi fares for Santorini:
- Port to Oia 45 euro
- Port to Fira 30 euro
- Airport to Oia 40 euro
- Airport to Fira 20 euro
If you’re hiring a car in Santorini for the duration of your trip then you can have it delivered to you at the port or the airport. There are rental companies at both the port and the airport but it’s best to book in advance. If you don’t then be discerning about who you choose.
I’ve used and recommend Santorini Easy Rentals.
Kronos Rent a Car at the port has good reviews if you need a place when you arrive.
Be aware that the drive up from the port is up a steep road with hairpin bends. If that makes you nervous then consider getting a transfer to your hotel and having the car delivered there (or nearby if you’re in pedestrianised Oia).
In terms of getting around the island itself, here are the various transport options available to you.
Car Rental in Santorini
I’m going straight in with car rental because I personally think it’s the best option to get around the island. It’s definitely the best thing if you visit in the winter months.
Having your own car is one of the most flexible ways of seeing the main tourist attractions in Santorini. You can go at your own pace whether your Santorini itinerary is jam-packed or slow-paced. And if you what to change your plans on a whim, you can.
In terms of hiring a car in Santorini, as I said above, it’s a good idea to arrange the booking in advance. Obviously, Santorini is a popular destination and In the high season, you’ll find that many places sell out.
In the winter season, a lot of the rental places will be closed. So make sure you organise all of this before you get to the island.
Having said that, there are various rental agencies across the island. So you can choose to book something for a couple of days mid-stay if you fancy it later (availability permitting). I can recommend Easy Rentals.
Sometimes if you book online you get a discount too so check for lower prices.
Need to Know Info
Here’s what you need to know about hiring a car in Santorini:
- it’s normal to be asked to pay a small portion of the fee at the time of booking as confirmation (eg 40 euro on a week’s hire) although not everywhere does it
- you might be sent a link to pay this by PayPal or credit card
- usually, you can pay the balance by cash or card but sometimes it’s cash only on collection
- it’s unlikely you’ll be asked to pay a deposit for car hire in Greece
- because of that, it’s normal for the rental companies to take your credit card details (manually on the form or using their card machine) when you collect the car
- the luxury hotels along the Caldera in Oia are not accessible by car. If you’re staying there check whether the hotel offers private parking
- if you choose a rental car that’s automatic rather than manual you’ll usually pay a premium for it
- in Greece, cars are left-hand drive and we drive on the right-hand side of the road
- most of the roads are decent but there are narrow roads like on most Greek islands so make sure you feel confident with those
Note that the insurance you get as standard doesn’t normally cover damage to the tires or bottom of the car. The idea is for you to stick to normal roads and not head off down stony dirt tracks unless you’ve rented a jeep/4×4.
Unless you’re from another EU country, the UK, Australia or somewhere else where driving licenses are accepted as is, you’ll need an International Driver’s Permit. This is in addition to your normal license (I understand it’s basically a translation of that) and something that you need to bring with you.
I understand now that the legal requirement for this from people with licenses from the US has been dropped. However, lots of people with US driving licenses are still being asked for an IDP. So, for the small cost, it might be worth getting one anyway to make things simpler if you’re asked for it.
Quad Rental in Santorini
I know a lot of other bloggers rave about exploring Santorini by quad bike and say it’s the best way to get about. You’ll need to make up your own mind about what to do but I would strongly advise you not to hire a quad bike.
Although it’s not huge, Santorini isn’t a tiny island and it’s not desperately safe to drive around on bikes.
I live on the islands and see so many news reports about fatal quad bike accidents in Santorini and Mykonos. I’ve also seen several near misses when driving. I’ve also heard about some nasty accidents that have really ruined vacations/holidays on the island.
Things like drivers taking corners too fast on quads and tipping. Even if you’re confident in your own abilities you can’t account for other people’s driving.
I don’t think I’m offending anyone by saying the rules of the road in Greece are taken more as suggestions. If you turn a corner and come face to face with a speeding driver, on the wrong side of the road, who’s been drinking raki since early, then you’re pretty vulnerable.
Since you need to have a driving license anyway I’d highly recommend getting a car instead, unless you’re only intending to use it for really short distances.
Santorini Public Buses
If you don’t want to drive or can’t get a car then don’t worry too much, public transport is an option. The Santorini public KTEL buses are clean cool and reliable. They’re also the cheapest way to get around the islands.
At busy times the bus service from Oia is a bit sparse. You might need to wait for a second or third bus before you can get a seat. Just after sunset is an example. So consider having a meal or wandering around the shops until the crowds disperse before trying to get the bus back.
If you’re staying elsewhere on the island then ask at your hotel where the nearest bus stop is and check which side of the road you need to be on.
There are bus routes from the central bus station in Fira to all the main towns / villages. So you can get to Oia and Fira easily if you’re staying in one of the traditional villages or somewhere like Kamari Beach resort.
The central hub for the local buses is the main station at the square in Fira. You can find the bus timetables for Santorini here. (Remember that for the port buses you need to check in person up to two days before.)
The main base is the taxi station in Fira town and it’s right next to the bus station.
The taxi rank in Oia is at the main square where the buses stop. In the area, there are a bunch of cash machines and some public toilets, as well as cafes. And it’s just a short walk to the main pedestrian streets.
The cost of a taxi from Fira to Oia is about 30 euro.
If you want the convenience of a car but don’t want to drive, then perhaps guided tours are the way to go.
You can book a private tour that will take you around the best places on the island, based on your interests. The driver will take you to wherever you go and they can make suggestions or stops along the way if you want.
A fun way to see the sights and meet other people is to take a semi-private group tour. It also brings the cost down compared to what you’d pay for a private tour. Often, whole-day tours will have an option for hotel pick up and drop off making things super easy.
Getting Around Santorini: Arriving By Cruise Ship
When you arrive at Santorini you’ll see the cruise ships stay a little way back from the island. You’ll be brought ashore on tender boats to Santorini’s old harbour. This little port is below Fira so you’ll need to find a way to get up the hill.
I wouldn’t recommend walking up the hundreds of steps. And I’d ask that you don’t take a donkey ride either.
For 6 euro (adults, 3 euro for children, luggage is an extra cost) you can take the easy way and get the cable car up to the top. It’s an opportunity to get great views too. The timetable changes from month to month so you can check it here.
- As a general idea, the cable car runs every 20 – 30 minutes from around 7am until 10 or 11pm depending on the season.
A portion of ticket sales is given to the donkey owners. By using the cable car you’re sparing the donkeys but still contributing to the tradition and local livelihoods in a better way.
What Are the Best Places to Visit in Santorini?
Ok so we’ve looked at how to get around the island, but what where you should be going?
Ok let’s start with Oia even though that’s probably top of your list anyway. When you’re looking at the Greek islands to visit I’m sure Oia swayed your decision to come to Santorini!
It’s the most popular place on the island and no doubt you’ll head there to watch the sunset during your stay. Many other people will flock with you so get there well before sundown.
Another option is to book a meal to have some space to see the spectacular light show. The best restaurants to see the sunset are the ones right on the caldera.
See this post about all the things to do in Oia.
Fira’s the capital of the island and where you’ll find the majority of shops and restaurants. You can get good sunset views from here too. And accommodation can be more accessible than in Oia.
I have a whole separate post about Pyrgos Village in Santorini so have a read of that. It’s a traditional Cycladic settlement that’s much calmer than Oia.
There are some fab places to stay and you can watch the famed Santorini sunset from a number of good vantage points.
Skaros Rock is a chunk of rock with the ruins of an ancient castle sticking out into the Aegean sea. You can walk up it as a detour from the Fira to Oia caldera hike or visit it as a separate trip.
Skaros Rock is an excellent viewpoint to see the volcanic rock that is the Caldera. It takes around an hour to hike up it and then back to Imerovigli. If you’re doing this walk in the summer months go first thing before it gets too warm or for the sunset.
Note that in 2022 there was restoration work happening and the rock was temporarily closed. If that’s still the case when you visit you can take the hiking path around the rock instead. There’s a church at the front which is lovely for the sunset.
Akrotiri Archaeological Site
The ancient site of Akrotiri is one of the best things to do in Santorini. The site is housed in a bioclimatic building so it’s pleasant all year round. Booking a guided tour is a great way to really get your imagination going and understand how things would have looked.
Red Beach is next door to Akrotiri site and is quite famous and popular. But technically it’s closed for safety because of the falling rocks. Be respectful of the signs saying the beach is closed and see it on a boat trip. Water taxis run between Akrotiri and the White beach too so you can see it from a safe distance.
Perissa Beach is a black beach thanks to the sand, a little reminder that you’re on a volcanic island! It’s the perfect place to chill out if you want a bit of holiday beach time.
Perissa Beach merges into Perivolos Beach to create a long stretch of sand with calm waters. Perivolos is a bit more lively although there are plenty of beach bars and eateries along both.
Speaking of wine Santo Wines is another place where you’ll find incredible views. They have a variety of tasting options based on the number of wines you’ll try. Book for the end of the day because it’s a great place to see the famous Santorini sunset.
Profitis Ilias Monastery
Profitis Ilias Monastery is the highest point on the island and, as such, has amazing views. Guided tours of the island that take you here will often include a stop at some of the small villages like Pyrgos and Megalochori.
Plus you can get the chance to stop for a wine tasting at one of the many wineries on Santorini.
Ancient Thera is a well-signed archaeological site. It’s on a mountain close to the monastery so it also has breathtaking panoramic views of the island. Well worth a visit.
This is another of the popular tourist spots. It’s a pretty harbour with photographic small boats and turquoise water. If you take a sunset or caldera cruise the chances are it will leave from here. You’ll find some of the best restaurants for fish dishes so see if you can fit in lunch or dinner before your cruise.
Another popular activity is a sunset cruise. The captains take you around various spots and you get the best views of the sunset. Like with other tours you’ll find a variety of options. A lot of the cruises combine the sunset with a stop at the volcano and hot springs.
Thirassia is a small island 7 minutes on the boat from Amoudi Bay. If you have time and need to escape the hoards, then take a day trip over. Boats run 3 – 4 times per day depending on the season. You can check the times in my travel guide for the island.
There are some restaurants at both the ports but not much in the way of beaches. The best way to explore the island is on foot yourself or by joining a hiking or e-MBT biking tour.
More Helpful Santorini Information
General info that might be helpful before your trip: these tips about visiting Greece, this post about power in Greece and what travel adapters you might need, this one about which Greek airline is best for island-hopping, this one about apps for Greece travel.
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