Getting around on a Greek island holiday
Jeremy Guest: May 2011
Holidaymakers on a Greek Island holiday for the first time will usually find that getting around is fairly easy. Most Greek islands usually have some form of public transport, and most will have a taxi service of sorts. If not, there is usually car and motorbike hire to be found in the main port or in the main resorts of most Greek islands.
Bus services are the cheapest but note that most bus services are there to serve the local population, not the holiday trade, so routes may not always go to the best beaches.
Buses are usually modern and clean and the services are generally punctual but buses can get very crowded in the main holiday season, especially mid-morning and at teatime when tourists are most likely to be heading to and from the beaches.
On smaller islands the bus service can simply vanish out of season when the buses are used only for school runs.
Car and bike hire outfits can be found on almost all island, even tiny ones like Lipsi. Hire rates tend to be reasonable and locals are always prepared to haggle, especially out of season. Don't expect the best car for the cheapest deal though.
Check the car first for dents and scratches — they can get taken over some very rough tracks on an island holiday.
Bicycle hire has become very popular for getting around on Greek islands lately and it's worth considering if you prefer more out-of-the-way beaches.
Roads have improved greatly in recent years although care is needed, especially on smaller islands. Most islands are very hilly (they are just the tops of mountains sticking out of the sea after all) and it's easy to ignore the road while taking in the views.
Sharp bends can go unsignposted and unfenced, rocks often fall onto the highway, and there is always the prospect of a goat leaping out or finding a large snake basking on the hot tar.
Finally, a word of warning about signposts and maps. On many islands maps, signs and reality appear to bear little relation to one another.
This has improved on the more popular islands in recent years but, away from the tourist centres (and that is usually why you hire your own transport in the first place) you can find maps with village names in English, road signs with village names in Greek and no sign of a village anywhere anyway.
If you get lost, stop at the nearest taverna, buy a drink and enjoy the sunshine. Adopt the Greek's favourite word 'avrio'. It literally translates as 'tomorrow' but, like the Spanish 'manana' it means so much more, or less in this case. Think to yourself 'I'm lost on a Greek Island — what more could I ask for?'