How to Get Around Athens on a Budget

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Athens, Greece and moved about with ease and without a car. So today I’m saving you hours of research and time by sharing how to get around Athens on a budget!

We’re talking about Athens public transportation tickets, passes, maps, how to get from Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos (ATH) to the center center of Athens, and so much more. Feel free to bookmark this page on your phone or computer, or print it out to reference on your next trip to Athens.

First, I’ll give you an overview of the Athens public transportation system. Next, we’ll talk about the types of transportation available and hours of operation. Then we’ll discuss how to get around Athens on a budget without a car – tickets, cost, where to buy, all the great details. After that, for a brief moment we’ll chat about Uber in Athens. Finally, we’ll close with how to get to/from the Athens airport to the city center, how to get to the Piraeus cruise port, whether it’s worth it to take a taxi, and end with which methods may be best for your trip.

QUICK OVERVIEW OF THE SYSTEM

Where is Athens, Greece Located?

In this blog, I’m not talking about Athens, Georgia; Athens, Alabama; or Athens, California. I’m talking about Athens, Greece located on the south-east side of the country. It is the capital and largest city of Greece.

There are over 6,000 islands and 13 Administrative Regions in Greece. Athens is a city located in the Attica Region.

The Attica Region is divided into 8 regional units, or districts: north Athens, east attica, south athens, west athens, central athens, Piraeus, and islands. You will find Athens in the Central region.

Furthermore, within Athens there are many neighborhoods, each with its own charm and appeal, such as:

  • Kolonaki – elegant and trendy w/ high-end boutiques
  • Monastiraki – historic, main shopping district, flea market, centrally located
  • Plaka – oldest district, popular for visitors, charming & picturesque, yet crowded
  • Psirri – artsy, bohemian 
  • Acropolis – obvious

Transportation Services in Athens

There are multiple types of transportation available in Athens:

  • Metro
  • Bus
  • Tram/Trolley
  • Train
  • Taxi
  • Uber/FreeNow rideshare services

We’ll talk about each in more detail later in this blog. 

As you learn to navigate around the city of Athens using public transportation, you’ll notice the following transportation services:

  • Public transportation ran by Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA). This company issues the ATH.ENA public transportation products that you will use to get around.
  • Urban Rail Transport (STASY) – operates the metro & trams.
  • Road Transport (OSY) – operates the bus & trolleys.
  • Hellenic Railways Organization (TRAIN OSE). Suburban Railway, operates trains in Greece.

Now that we know a little bit about how Athens is laid out, the different forms of transportation, and helpful services, now let’s talk about how to get around Athens on a budget.

HOW TO GET AROUND ATHENS ON A BUDGET

#1 WALK 

The best way to get around Athens on a budget and without a car is to walk. We walked everywhere on our trip! We honestly didn’t even need to take public transportation because we stayed in Monastiraki, which is centrally located and within a 10-20min walk from just about everything – the acropolis, restaurants, shopping, and entertainment.

Once you get to/from the airport or the cruise port, Athens is an incredibly walkable city. If you’re able, I recommend walking to get to your destination. It’s free, good exercise, and a great way to see the city is to see it on foot. Walking is the best way to get around Athens, Greece on a budget, hands down!

#2 TAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION 

Photo of Antoinette holding an ATH.ENA ticket at the airport metro station in Athens, Greece.
You see? Taking public transportation in Athens, Greece is as easy as holding the right ticket!

Public transportation in Athens is easy to use and reliable. If you’re looking to get around Athens on a budget, it is an efficient way to cover a lot of ground. Let’s discuss this in more detail.

Useful Information

Generally, all forms of public transportation that I’ll list in this section operate everyday 5:30am – midnight. On Friday & Saturday the system runs until 1:30am.

Public transportation tickets in Athens allow you to transit on all forms of public transportation – the metro, bus, trolley, tram, and select trains. This makes getting around Athens on a budget a convenient breeze!

Where do you purchase Athens public transportation tickets?

You can Buy tickets for public transportation at the counters of the metro station, select bus stations, or automatic vending machines. Credit cards and cash up to €20 are accepted.

Once you’ve decided how to pay, you can load your tickets and passes on an ATH.ENA TICKET or ATH.ENA CARD

What is an ATH.ENA TICKET or ATH.ENA card?

An ATH.ENA TICKET (aka- “Multiple Ticket”) is a reloadable paper fare card that holds your Athens public transportation tickets and passes. It’s best used if you are visiting for less than 30 days (like a typical toursit to the city).

An ATH.ENA CARD is a reloadable plastic card that can hold up to €50 in value or a long-term pass. There are two forms of the ATH.ENA CARD: Anonymous and Personalized.

An Anonymous ATH.ENA CARD is for individuals who will frequently use public transportation over a period of time and/or want up to two tickets on one card. The period of time can be a week or less, or even years.

The Personal ATH.ENA CARD contains your personal data, requires a photo and valid state ID number, and is intended for those staying longer than 30 days. Riders can purchase all ticket types and passes in addition to long term passes for 30, 90, 180, or 365 days.

My recommendation? If you are visiting Athens, I recommend the ATH.ENA TICKET. But note, no matter what ticket you choose to load your fare on, you MUST validate your ticket or pay a hefty €72 fine!

Now that we have a foundation for taking public transportation in Athens, let’s talk specifics! One way to get around Athens on a budget through public transportation is to…

#2a TAKE THE METRO (METRO MAP)

In Athens, there are three color-coded metro lines labeled M1-M3: Green (M1), Red (M2), and Blue (M3). 

The Athens metro runs every 5-10 minutes. To ride the metro, purchase your fare then validate your ticket on entry and exit. Practically speaking, validate your ticket on the right, enter or exit the station on the left.

While traveling in Athens, be sure to download the Athens Metro Map: your phone so you can easily navigate the system.

#2b RIDE A BUS/TRAM/TROLLEY

There are over 60 bus routes that run every 10-15 minutes. Unlike the metro, you must validate your ticket only on entry. Most of the time the busses are a slower option because they get stuck in typical big city traffic, so we won’t spend a lot of time here.

There are two tram routes (T6 & T7) that make 48 stops. The tram will take you to the “Athen’s Riviera” beach area, but most of the time a tram is not required to get to the main attractions in Athens (walking might get you there faster or at the same time!)

Now that you know the different forms of public transportation you can take, let’s talk about the different tickets you can purchase to load on your ATH.ENA ticket or card: Single and Unlimited Trip Tickets.

ATHENS PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION TICKET TYPES (OPTIONS)

Single Ride Tickets 

A single ride ticket is valid for one 90-min journey and costs only €1,20! This is an incredible cheap way to get around Athens on a budget! Remember, this ticket is valid for one 90-minute journey on any form of public transportation except to and from the airport.

Visitors in Athens can also purchase ticket packs, which are a group of single tickets. There are a few options:

  • 2-ticket pack = €2,30
  • 5-Ticket pack = €5,70
  • 10-Tickets + 1 bonus ticket = €12
  • Express bus X80 to Pireaus/Acropolis/Syntagma Express = €5,50

Note the single ride tickets do not NOT include airport metro or airport express bus unless indicated.

Unlimited Travel Tickets

There are a few unlimited ride travel ticket options to load on an ATH.ENA product.

  • Daily Ticket = €4,10. This ticket is also valid for an Airport trip, but for X80 bus only (we’ll talk about X80 later in this blog).
  • 24hr Daily Ticker =  €4,10. Also valid for unlimited X80 bus line trips. Expires 24hrs from when you first validate it.
  • 3-day Tourist Ticket. For €20, the 3-day tourist ticket is a solid option for anyone staying for three consecutive days. It is valid for unlimited X80 line and on airport round trip bus ride on the metro or Express Bus Lines X93 / X95 / X96 / X97
  • 5-day Ticket = €8,20.

#3 SUMMON A TAXI OR UBER

Is there Uber in Athens? Does Athens have Uber or Taxis or other ride sharing apps?

Yes! Uber is available in Athens, as well as the European app FreeNow, which is like Uber for European cities.

I typically don’t say this…in fact I’ve NEVER said this in a transportation blog before, and I’ve written blogs on how to get around in Paris, Rome, London, Miami, Chicago, and Barcelona. So this may come as a shock to the Frolic & Courage family, but taking a taxi or Uber is an easy and affordable way to get around Athens on a budget!

Keep in mind taking an Uber in Athens is not like the typical experience in the United States. In the U.S., you typically log in to the Uber app, select your destination, and wait for a stranger to pick you up in their car. This is not the experience in Athens! When you use Uber in Athens, it will actually summon an official taxi and not a regular person driving their own car.

How much is an Uber, or rather, how much is a Taxi in Athens?

Taxi’s start at 1,80€, with a 4,00€ minimum no matter the distance. At this price it is a very affordable way to get around Athens on a budget for shorter distances. As long as traffic is light, a trip within the city will run under €6! We took a taxi a few times during our trip. Each time it was coordinated by a restaurant parking attendant or the hotel staff so there were no language bariers, but the experience was a pleasant suprise!

Should I rent a car or drive in Athens? What about parking?

It is possible to rent a car in Athens and you can drive around the city, but honestly…parking is terrible. And so if traffic. I would not recommend this at all – don’t do it. It is easy to get around Athens by walking,  bus, or public transport – there’s no need to rent a car. 

HOW DO I GET FROM ATHENS AIRPORT TO THE CITY CENTER?

Getting from the Athens airport to the city center of Athens is pretty easy, but requires a special Airport Ticket. You can take the metro, bus, taxi. Let’s chat about each method in detail.

How to get from the Athens Airport to the City Center by Metro

Photo of an Athens airport sign directing travelers "to trains/buses".
Follow the the arrows and signs “To Trains/Buses” to begin your journey from the Athens airport to the city center of Athens via metro or bus.

You may have seen us take the metro in our Athens vlog, but here’s what you need to know about taking the metro to the city center.

  • The trip takes around 40 min to get to the city center (eithe Syntagma Square or Monastiraki)
  • Valid for 90 minutes, your can transfer to a tram, trolley, or bus, but NOT the airport express buses to your final destination. 
  • The metro runs every 36 minutes from 6:10am – 11:30pm. There is also a specific Athens airport metro timetable to consult for the exact times the metro will depart.
  • Cost Breakdown: Single trip = €9 one way; Round trip = €16 2-way; or you can purchase the 3-day tourist ticket for €20.

How to get to the Athens city center via metro: Step-by Step Instructions

After customs, follow signs to ground transportation/baggage claim. Once at baggage claim, follow signs to exit the airport “To Trains”. This will lead you outside. Next, you must walk across street past a row of taxis. Follow signs “To Trains” until you reach elevators. Take elevator to 1st floor.

Walk across a long walkway to the Airport metro station. Take metro line 3 (blue). It directly connects the Airport to Syntagma and the most important sites of Athens. At one of the kiosks, buy tickets under “Buy Passes”. You have three options:

  1. Airport + Athens via metro for €9-11, 90 min validity;
  2. Athens w/airport round trip; or
  3. 3-Day Tourist pass. 

Once you purchase your tickets, walk to your left, follow metro stations. Scan your pass, walk through gate (beware of gate hoppers) and go down two flights of escalators or stairs.

At the bottom of the steps, walk onboard the train. There is only one going towards “Nikea”. On the train there areluggage racks available, space for your carry on, and seating is spaced out appropriately. It take approximately 45 minutes to ride into the city center. Exit to Syntagma Square or Montsaraki station.

Beware of metro jumpers who will squeeze through turnstiles with you. WE ARE NOT TOGETHER! I don’t want to be seen as aiding and abetting this metro theft scheme.

How to get from the Athens Airport to the City Center by Bus

Photo of the X95 Athens airport express bus stationed at Syntagma Square.
Athens airport express bus X95 stationed at Syntagma Square on Othonos Street in Athens, Greece.

The wonderful thing about public transportation in Athens is that the airport bus runs 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, every 30 mins. The bus directly connects the Airport to Syntagma, Piraeus, the Intercity Bus Stations, and the area of Elliniko.

There are city busses and express busses. Express busses have an “x” in before the bus route number. To get from the airport to the Athens city center via bus, I recommend the airport express bus X95 to Syntagma Square, since it makes less stops than a regular public bus.

Tickets for the airport express but are valid for one trip. You can purchase from ticket vendors or on the bus (via the driver) with exact change or nothing more than a €20 note.

There are multiple express busses available:

  • X95 to Syntagma Square (1hr)
  • X96 to Piraeus (1.5hrs)
  • X93 from Intercity Bus Stations – Kiffissou and Lliosson streets (1hr)
  • X97 from Elliniko metro

Each express bus costs €5,50 for a one way ride. Similar to the other forms of public transportation, you can pay via card or cash using a kiosk or cash on the bus, but nothing greater than €20 and try to have exact change. 

How to get from Athens Airport to the city center by Express Bus X95

From the airport terminals, follow signs “to busses”, then walk to the ground floor arrivals level (between Exit 4 and Exit 5). Take express bus X95 to Syntagma square. The Airport express bus X95 will drop you off at Othonos street in Syntagma Square in front of Eurobank. From Syntagma, you can walk to the Plaka or Monistiraki neighborhoods, or jump on a taxi.

On the return trip to the airport, the same bus departs from Othonos street in Syntagma Square in front of Eurobank (the same location!).

How to get from the Athens Airport to the City Center by Taxi/Uber/FreeNow

Taking a taxi is a relatively simple process. It is important to note that before you jump into the first taxi you see, ASK the driver if they take credit cards. Cash is always King and some drivers do not accept cards.

The ride from the Athens airport to the city center via taxi takes 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. In full, it costs €40-60 with the price dependent on the time of day.

To take a taxi, from the airport terminal follow signs “to trains/buses”. Before you cross the street, there will be a lot of official yellow cabs waiting for you.

How to get to/from the Port of Piraeus Cruise Port to Athens

The Port of Pireaus Cruise port is 28 miles or 45 minutes from the airport and 20-30 minutes all the way up to an hour away from central Athens with traffic. Leave early just in case!

Public transportation will drop you off a nearby port, not directly in front of the terminals. It is inconvenient and you will have to WALK from there with all your luggage. For this reason, I recommend taking a TAXI/Uber/FreeNow or coordinate transportation with your cruise line. This way, you can order a car that will fit you and all your luggage. The total cost for a taxi is €54-70.

But… if you want to take your chances with all your luggage, you can take the metro or bus. 

Metro: Take the Green line M1 from Monastiraki towards Piraeus. The last stop is the Piraeus metro stop. From there, sources say you must walk 1 mile to ports.

Bus: Take the X80 Express bus “Piraeus – Acropolis – Syntagma EXPRESS”. This express bus was specifically designed for tourists and runs from the cruise port to Sytagma Square and the Acropolis. Keep in mind, X80 only operates during peak cruising season from May – October. During the peak season, the express bus runs every 35-40 minutes from 7am-9:15pm. In all, it takes around 30 minutes to get to center of Athens depending on traffic.

But wait, that’s not all! Bus X80 makes 16 stops total and includes popular site such as: Acropolis Museum, Archaeological Museum of Piraeus, Planetarium, Municipal Theater of Piraeus, Modern Art National Museum and the “Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre”.

WHICH TICKET IS BEST FOR YOUR TRIP TO ATHENS

As you can see, there are many ways to get around Athens on a budget! From my experience, I’d recommend purchasing an Airport ticket then WALKING around! If you feel led, take an Uber/FreeNow/Taxi for longer distance if traffic appears light. If you’re pressed for time and want to see the major sites, consider purchasing a Hop On Hop Off Bus ticket.

For my bougie travelers, you can also arrange a private Athens airport transfer in advance. Someone will wait for you with a sign when you arrive at the airport to assist with your luggage and take you to your accommodations. The cost varies by the number of travelers, but it is a really comfortable experience for a special occasion or any day.

Trying to determine the best way to get around Athens on a budget really depends on your itinerary, who you’re traveling with, how often you need to travel, and your expectations. I can’t tell you what will work best for you, but once you have your itinerary set, use google maps to determine the best way to get from point a to point b. If you find your itinerary and preferences are conveniently close to a metro or bus stop, then consider purchasing one of the ticket types above.

In sum, there are a lot of great, affordable ways to get around Athens on a budget – choose what’s best for you and enjoy your trip!

Visual learner? Watch my How to Get Around Athens on a Budget YouTube video!

If you found this blog helpful, please let me know! Also, this is not an exhaustive list of how to get around Athens on a budget. If you know of other ways to get around please share it with us the the comments below to help your fellow first time travelers to Athens, Greece.

Enjoy!
Antoinette | Frolic & Courage

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