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Travel in the Greek islands can seem a marathon, given the number of islands and fascinating sights. Many visitors stay on one island but, with regular ferries and flights, there really is no need. There are seven island groups each with its own character – no two islands are the same but groups tend to share attributes, from the classic style of the Cyclades to the Venetian echoes of the Ionian; the Crusader castles of Rhodes to the green of Thassos.

Prasonisi beach on Rhodes
Best car hire deals

Find the best car hire deals for the Greek islands. Most holiday visitors to the Greek islands will want to hire a car in order to get the best value out of their holiday experience. Many Greek islands are relatively small but most of them, and that includes the most popular holiday islands, are big enough to make Greek island car hire a major plus. Popular islands such as Corfu, Kos and Rhodes have so many wonderful beaches to explore that car hire is pretty much a necessity if you are to make the most of your Greek island holiday. Although roads are good on these holiday islands, public transport can be sketchy and taxi hire is expensive, so holiday car hire is really the best option. And it makes sense to shop around to get the best holiday car hire deals on offer. The best way to check out the best car hire deals is online, but you need to find a website that makes it easy to find cheap car hire deals for Greek holiday destinations. You also need a website such as Cheapcarehirerates.com that will automatically compare numerous different car rental suppliers in one easy search in order to bring home the best deals. Corfu is one of the most popular Greek holiday islands and for cheap car hire Corfu you need to check out prices from several car rental firms. Corfu car rental allows you to explore not only the popular beach resort to the north and east, but the more remote delights of the island such as the wild western coast as well as the traditional hill villages of the interior. Kos is an island where beach resorts are spread widely around the long coastline. The delights of the east coast capital of Kos Town and the beach hotel resorts such as Psalidi are quite a distance from the family fun beaches of Kamari Bay and Kardamena in the west. So it makes very good sense to shop around to find the best deals on cheap car hire Kos. Rhodes is an island where the majority of beach resort are concentrated in the north and east. But Rhodes is a much bigger island and cheap car hire Rhodes is a must if you want to experience the delights of the rugged west coast, the charm of the traditional hillside hamlets and the wonderful sands of the remote south. Cheapcarhirerates.com makes the search for holiday car rental quick and easy and they don't add an extra penny to the quote. Their search engine covers more than 550 car rental suppliers in over 28,000 locations worldwide so they are sure to find the right holiday car rental for you. Best of all, there are no hidden fees and full transparency so the offer of cheap car rentals is exactly that. And by comparing so many suppliers you can be sure of getting the best deal – leaving you more to spend on enjoying that Greek island holiday.

Cruise ship launches 2012 season
Cruise ships launch new season

Cruise ships launch new Greek holiday season. International cruise firms could pump cash into major upgrades for Greek island ports in a bid to boost Greek island holidays. Cruise liner giants Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Costa, MSC and Celebrity say they are interested in funding port improvements, but only if the Greek cruise market is liberalised. It could mean major upgrades for Greek mainland ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki as well as for popular Greek holiday islands such as Rhodes and Crete. Cruise market leader MSC wants to start circular Greek Island cruises quickly, but only if the cruise sector is fully opened up to competition and security standards for tourists are improved. Restrictive practises have forced cruise companies to employ Greek crews, while passengers have been forced to stay aboard in some ports. Cruise firms are particularly interested in expanding operations in Rhodes and Crete, as these can open the door to port cruises in Africa, Turkey and the Middle East. Meanwhile, the arrival of the giant MSC cruise liner Magnifica at the port of Piraeus this week has opened this year's Greek Island cruise season. The MSC Magnifica, at 293 metres long, features 17 decks and can carry 3,200 passengers and 1,100 crew. The cruise ship has a theatre, sports hall and a retractable roof. A total of 800 cruise ships have already booked stops in Piraeus and other Greek Island ports for 2012. Last year Piraeus hosted 936 cruise ships and recorded more than 2.5 million passenger arrivals – a 35% increase on 2010.

Avro adds new flights to Greece
Greek holiday flights

New Greek holiday flights from Avro. Flight-only operator Avro is adding more holiday routes to the Greek islands next summer. Avro has added Greek holiday flights from East Midlands and Newcastle airports to both Heraklion in Crete and to the island of Corfu. Prices on the new holiday charter flights start at £229 per person based on the East Midlands to Corfu flight which will take off on Mondays from 21 May to 24 September. The Greek holiday flight from East Midlands to Heraklion is priced at £249 per person and will fly out each Tuesday from 12 May to 25 September. Flying out from May to November each Tuesday, will be the the Newcastle to Heraklion with prices on these Greek holiday flights starting at £259 and the Newcastle to Corfu flight will operate each Monday from 21 May to 24 September. Avro has plans to expand its range of regional departures next year. The company sees increased demand from their key retail and tour operator partners. Avro plc is part of an international group of travel companies. Its UK sister companies include Cosmos Coach Tours Limited (also known as "Cosmos Tours & Cruises"), Cosmos Holidays Plc, Monarch Airlines Limited and Archers Tours Limited (also known as "Archers Direct"). Britons planning package holidays and other breaks on the Greek island of Crete next year will also be able to fly to the destination with easyJet. The airline is to operate weekly flights from Luton airport to Crete from 21 April. The carrier operates routes to a number of popular Greek holiday islands including Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Kos, Zante, Kefalonia and Corfu.

Greek workers in street protest
Greeks strike in protest

Greeks strike in austerity protest. Late break holidaymakers on a Greek holiday face travel disruption as unions threaten a 48-hour general strike. Unions threaten to extend a planned general strike next week as protests against sweeping Greek austerity measures continue. The general strike planned for October 19 looks likely to continue the following day, shutting down public transport in Athens and barring tourists from touring the Acropolis. The strike coincides with a Greek government vote on the latest Greek austerity package just days before a European Union summit on the crisis. Union leaders claim the austerity bill "will destroy Greece and its people." The public sector union Adedy is coordinating the strike alongside the General Confederation of Greek Labour (GSEE). Both unions have 2.5 million members and forecast a high turnout to protest at the latest austerity bill, which includes hacy cuts in pay and pensions as well as job cuts in the traditionally protected public sector. Earlier this week, public transport on Athens ground to a halt, the Acropolis was closed to tourists for a second day and protesters joined street demonstrations

Greek transport workers on strike
Greek strikes

Greek islands escape strike action. Visitors on Greek Island holidays remain largely unaffected by protest strikes against the latest Greek austerity measures. Transport problems are set to resume this week, but disruption is mainly confined to the mainland. A walkout by Athens metro workers and railway staff triggered traffic jams in Athens last week, while air travellers faced delays after a go-slow by Athens air traffic controllers. Public transport workers plan walkouts this week in a bid to halt Athens city buses while taxi drivers are to stage a 48-hour strike in protest at a licensing shake-up. The Greek government plans to put thousands of public transport workers on a labour standby scheme that will result in wages being slashed by up to 50% for at least 12 months. Commuters in Athens will be badly hit on Monday when a walkout will halt city buses operating between 11am and 5pm. Trolley buses are expected to stop between 11am and 4pm. The strike by workers on the Athens metro and the Piraeus-Kifissia electric railway led to a second day of traffic gridlock in Athens as city dwellers who usually use public transport took their cars instead. Air traffic control unions called a go-slow, work-to-rule and an overtime ban after a planned 24-hour strike was declared illegal. They also plan a four hour work stoppage on September 28 which may cause flight cancellations. But the Greek islands remain relatively free of industrial action with ferry unions free of strike action throughout September. Cheap flier easyJet confirmed its confidence in Greek Island holidays by launching a new route to Corfu from London Luton Airport next March. As part of the celebration easyJet previewed its new TV commercial, which will be airing from October. TV actress Lorraine Chase was on hand at Luton to announce the route launch. Lorraine has been synonymous with Luton since the Campari advert – which kick-started her career – spawned her catchphrase 'Luton Airport'. The ad then inspired the 1979 hit record 'Luton Airport' by Cats U.K.

Greek taxi drivers on strike
Taxi strike

Greek island taxi drivers on strike. Visitors taking holidays in the Greek islands may find themselves at the centre of another strike by Greek taxi drivers. Cab drivers in Greece and the Greek islands are angry at plans to deregulate the industry and make it easier for people to start up new taxi firms. Greek island holidaymakers found themselves blockaded by angry taxi drivers last month who staged mass protests outside Greek airports and ferry ports. Despite the disruption and the effects on Greek tourism, the government is to press ahead with reforms. In response, about 30,000 taxi drivers have called for a 24-hour strike throughout Greece and the Greek islands. Union leaders of the cab drivers are to call a mass rally to determine what action they should take to get the government to change its mind. Under new rules taxi cab licences are to be made cheaper and easier to get. Drivers who try to 'sell on' licenses face hefty fines. Taxi driver say the rules will result in a glut of taxi drivers and many who forked out thousands of euros for former licences will be left out of pocket. Reform of 'closed shop' practises is part of the demands included in the international loans deal to rescue the Greek economy from meltdown.

Ryanair may axe winter flights
Cheap flights

Cheap flights to Rhodes may be axed. Tourism leaders are alarmed at reports that cheap flight airline Ryanair could axe out-of-season flights to the Greek holiday islands of Rhodes and Kos. Rumours of the suspension of late season cheap holiday flights to the Greek islands resorts have triggered turmoil in the tourism sector on both islands. Ryanair has dismissed the rumours as 'speculation' but fears that the airline could drop cheap flights has prompted a political row on Rhodes where hopes have been running high of attracting more winter tourists. Political opposition leaders blame the Greek government for not pumping in cash to subsidise the routes which form a key plank of a campaign by tourism leaders to extend the holiday season on Rhodes well into the winter months. Rhodes hotels and tavernas have been encouraged to remain open to tempt more Rhodes holiday arrivals beyond the normal summer season. Now political leaders warn that 'possible disruption of flight operations of Ryanair would undermine the efforts to extend the tourist season and convert Rhodes to an all-season tourist destination.' Greek Tourism Minister Giorgios Nikitiadis is to visit Ryanair headquarters in Dublin later this month but he said the government had no contract with Ryanair to subsidise cheap holiday flights to Rhodes or Kos. "The government has not signed any contract with any low-budget airline," he insisted. There has been a big rise in Rhodes and Kos holidays arrivals this year with tourist visitors up more than 30%. It follows a big advertising campaigns to attract more holidaymakers tot he islands and it comes as numbers of people taking Greek island holidays surged 10% overall in the first six months of 2011. From November to April in 2009-2010, holiday arrivals on Rhodes flying Ryanair cheap holiday flights totalled about 8,000 and another 5,000 flew in for holidays on Kos using the cheap flight airline. Tourist leaders fear that cutting these flights this year would result in a severe blow to their all-year holiday campaign.

Striking taxi drivers
Greek taxi drivers end strike

Greek taxi drivers end strike. Greek taxi drivers have called an end to their 18-day strike which has seen roads, ports and airports in Greece and the Greek islands blockaded by hundreds of taxi cabs. Tourist visitors to Greece and the Greek islands have been forced to carry luggage long distances from airports and ferries as angry Greek taxi drivers blockaded roads and harbours in protest at plans to deregulate the sector. Now taxi drivers' leaders have called off strike action following talks with 12 regional governors. Cabbies were given assurances that no new licences would be issued before the government submits its liberalisation Bill later this year. The cabbies are opposed to plans to deregulate their sector which will result in the introduction of an unlimited number of cheap licences. Taxi drivers argue that there should be limits on the number of licenses issued based on the population of each city. The head of the taxi owners' union (SATA), Thymios Lyberopoulos, said: 'Society is demanding that there is some calm until the end of summer. "I am sure they will heed this call because they realise that this is in their own interest. Their action has caused problems for tourism and Greece's image abroad.' Many taxi drivers on the Greek islands called off strike action earlier this week following protests from tourism leaders over the effect of the blockades on Greek island holiday visitors. Taxi drivers on the Greek holiday islands of Lesvos, Mykonos, Rhodes, Kos and Santorini abandoned stike action this week and put taxis back on the road. It was estimated that taxi drivers on Crete were losing €100 euros a day by taking part in the strike during what is peak season for tourism. But taxi drivers insist this is only a temporary truce and they will wait for the new Bill to be drawn up later this year before deciding on any further action.

Taxi strike
Greek taxi protest

Greek taxi cab protest drags on. Tourists on Greek island holidays have been forced to carry luggage some distance from airports as striking Greek taxi owners step up their protests at reforms. Greek taxi cab drivers blockaded highways,ports and a busy Greek island airport after negotiations with the government on new licensing laws collapsed in acrimony. Greek taxi cab drivers are now in their third week of a bitter strike that has triggered angry warnings from the country's tourism industry as visitors are inconvenienced by their action. Despite the warnings, taxi drivers blocked the main highways in southern Greece as well as roads leading to Iraklion International Airport on the holiday island of Crete. Taxi cabs parked on approach roads forced tourists to leave buses some distance away from the airport and walk to the main terminal to catch holiday flights home. Cabbies also blocked access to the main port on the island of Corfu affecting holidaymakers using ferry services.  Leaders of the Athens Taxi Owners Association have pledged to surround the Transport Ministry in Athens for 48 hours and vowed to continue strike action until the government abandoned planned reforms. Taxi drivers are angry at plans to open up their profession to more competition as part of major reforms to the economy. Cabbies claim they will lose money invested buying expensive licenses and fear a glut in the industry and people snap up cheaper licences. The reforms have been demanded by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, as part of austerity measures required to pay out rescue loans worth more than €110 billion.

Athens airport bus
Better bus to ferries

Better bus services for Greek Island ferries. Holiday visitors to Greece and the Greek Islands are to get extra bus services between Athens' airport and the ferry port at Piraeus. The Athens Urban Transport Organisation (OASA) has announced changes to bus routes serving Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, the ferry port of Piraeus and the central Athens intercity bus terminals. Buses between the airport and ferries will run 24-hours-a-day from August 1. And the routes of buses X95, X93 and X96 will be extended to cover 3am to 5.30am between Piraeus port and Athens' bus stations. This means the X95 bus that normally runs between Syntagma Square and the airport will also provide a night link between Syntagma Square and Piraeus. The X93 bus between Kifissos intercity bus terminal and Athens Airport will now also link both destinations with the seaport of Piraeus. The X96 bus (Piraeus-Athens Airport Express) will also run 24-hours via Posidonos Avenue and Varis Avenue to and from the seaport of Piraeus and Athens Airport. The changes will mean better night service for holidaymakers flying into Athens and catching Greek Island ferries from the port at Piraeus The bus timetable extensions come as protesting Greek taxi drivers vow to press on with strike action despite calls from by Prime Minister George Papandreou to end disruption at ports and airports. Taxi cab owners claim new regulations will trigger a glut of cabbies and sink the value of their operating licenses, which used to exchange hands for six-figure sums. But the government warns that freeing up 'closed shop' trades is a condition of huge loans to help the country climb out of debt. The Prime Minister has agreed to talks with taxi cab operators but says reforms must be put in place. Tour operators and the government have said the taxi cab protests, which have blocked roads from major ports and airports, have damaged the country's reputation abroad at the height of the holiday season.

Troubled Cook

Troubled times for Thomas Cook. Troubled tour giant Thomas Cook has pledged to beef up UK sales after a big drop in profits on holiday sales in 2011. The share value of the holiday tour firm has dropped by two-thirds since January as poor trading in the UK and unrest in the Middle East and Africa hit sales. Thomas Cook blames political unrest in North Africa and difficult trading conditions in the UK for the under performance. Now the travel company has announced a 'fundamental strategic and operational review of the business' in the UK. Thomas Cook got a boost recetly when the Competition Commission backed the proposed merger of its UK retail business with that of the Co-operative group to create Britain's biggest retail travel business. Now chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa is under increasing pressure to turn sales around.  He has defended the strategy of high street expansion with Co-op Travel even though more holidaymakers are using the internet to book holidays. He insists many customers prefer face-to-face contact. Thomas Cook carries a significant number of holiday package holidays in the Greek islands but has failed to sell well on the Greek holiday website Greek Island Holidays where sales have been heavily dominated by TUI rivals Thomson. Although there is plenty of interest in Thomas Cook holidays offered on the Greek Island Holidays website, conversions have been low and actual sales to the end of July are running at 0.05% of those achieved by Thomson. Thomas Cook Group plc, the Co-operative Group and the Midlands Co-operative agreed to merge their high street travel and foreign exchange businesses last year.  The move created the UK's largest high street travel network with more than 1,300 shops. Thomas Cook is expected to issue another market trading update and interim management statement on August 11, 2011.

Geek ferry
Greek ferries

Greek ferries free from August strikes. Greek island holiday tourists have been promised a strike-free August by seamen working on ferry routes across the Aegean. Seamen's unions decided to avoid threatened walkouts for the rest of July and August – the peak season for holiday visitors in the Greek islands. They feared that ferry strikes could seriously damage the economy at the height of the holiday season as many tourists rely on ferries to visit smaller  islands and for Greek island hopping holidays. The wave of protest strikes comes in the wake of growing austerity measures by the government as it tries to tackle Greece's huge debt problem. The news will come as a relief to those on Greek Island holidays who have already been hit by a taxi drivers' strike as roads to several major ports and airports have been blockaded by parked taxi cabs. Seamen are angry at proposed cuts in pensions and allowances and, despite the decision to stay strike-free in August, they warn of action later in the year.  Of the 10 unions involved in strike talks seven voted to keep ferries in operation and five voted for strike action. They are expected to meet in mid-August to discuss progress. Greece suffered a national strike in mid June and a series of 48-hour strike by electricity workers that has hit supplies.  Taxi drivers have held blockades and strikes all week and some face prosecution after occupying toll booths on major roads in Thessaloniki and letting drivers go through without paying. Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) has called on the courts to intervene and put a stop to the blocking of ports, airports and roads that has inconvenienced thousands of tourists. Despite the problems the Greek Islands has seen a 10% rise in tourist arrivals this year as visitors shrug off the difficulties and cash in on cheap Greek holiday offers.

Greek taxi strike
Taxi strike

More tourists hit by Greek taxi strike. Tourists in Crete and Corfu have had their holiday plans disrupted as the Greek taxi cab drivers continue their blockades and strikes. Taxi drivers parked cabs on roads leading to ports and airports on the popular Greek holiday islands of Crete and Corfu in protest at plans to deregulate the taxi industry. Crete tourists said hundreds of cabs blocked access roads and package holiday passengers were forced to carry suitcases 500m to waiting holiday buses. It was a similar situation in Corfu when roads to ports and airports were impassable as roads were blocked by taxis. The taxi driver protest earlier this week was expected to last just 48 hours and hit mainland ports and airports at Athens and Thessaloniki but it has now lengthened to four days and spread to the Greek islands. No solution is yet in sight. The government wants to bring in measures in July aimed at tackling 'closed shop' industries such as taxi operators. They want to slash the cost of licenses and to streamline applications. Greek taxi drivers complain that expensive licenses that were once passed on down through the family are now virtually worthless. They also fear a large rise in the numbers of taxis on the roads, making it harder to find enough fares to make a living. The Greek taxi drivers vow to continue with strikes and blockades unless the new regulations are scrapped. The taxi industry is one of 135 'closed shop' professions targeted by the government in order to meet strict EU and IMF conditions for financial bailouts.

Hotel on Mykonos
Hotels price fall

Greek Island holiday hotels slash prices. A big drop in domestic tourism in Greece has forced hotels and holiday companies to slash prices in a bid to attract overseas holiday visitors. Travel agencies and hotel owners are offering discounts of up to 50% at the peak of the summer holiday season this year. Economic troubles in Greece have led to a huge fall in Greek taking summer holiday breaks in the Greek Islands this year. Greek island hotel owners report a drop in domestic holidaymakers this year of up to 40% Holiday visitor arrivals from overseas however continue to rise with an increase of 10% in the numbers flying in for their summer holidays in the Greek Islands.  Some islands such as Rhodes and Kos say foreign visitor number are up by as much as 30%. But the fall in domestic tourism has left hotel rooms empty and apartment only half full. Now hotel owners are slashing prices and offering extra incentives to attract more customers. One popular tourist holiday website is offering new package deals at more than 170 hotels across the Greek Islands with discounts of up to 50%.  Others are offering complimentary bottles of wine and extra days free on selected weeks in the peak August holiday season. For example one star hotels in Faliraki, Rhodes are offering rooms at just €11 per night while studios on Zante and Corfu have deals at just €12.50 in August. On the popular holiday island of Paros there are studios on offer at €13.5 while visitors can book studio apartments on Kos, Naxos and Ios for just €15 a night. Four star hotels in Lefkas are offering 50% discounts on certain dates in August and visitors can find four star city centre hotels in Athens charging just €33.50. It pays, though, to be a little wary of cheap offers on the internet. Holidaymakers should check these deals come all inclusive of taxes and service charges.  It is also a good idea to check out cancellation policies and deposit terms and to make sure the property is where is claims to be – some can be located in surrounding areas or even nearby towns. That said, there are some very good late holiday deals to be found in the Greek Islands this year if visitors are prepared to shop around.

Greek taxi protest
Greek taxi protest hits tourists

Greek taxi protest hits tourists. Striking Greek tax drivers have blocked roads leading to Greece's largest ports at Piraeus and Patras in a 48-hour protest at the government's plans to reform the sector. Traffic in the Greek capital was brought to a standstill as more than 2,000 taxis formed a protest convoy. The blockade disrupted travel plans for thousands of holidaymakers on the mainland. The government want to liberalise over 150 'closed shop' professions blamed for stunting competition and Greece's economic growth.They want to make it easier and cheaper to buy taxi licences. Taxi drivers say that relaxing rules on licences will result in too many taxi drivers. They also claim that expensive licenses are now worthless as they can no longer sell them on. Protesters blocked gates to cruise ship docks and stopped some 15,000 visitors from boarding coaches to see tourist sites. Others missed flight connections as airport roads were blocked. Tourism leaders are angry at the blow to the Greek island holiday trade. The Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) called the strike a 'new blow to the country's image'.  They have called on the government to come to a settlement as soon as possible to avoid more disruption. The Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers (POX) is more forthright. A spokesman said: "At the heart of the most critical season in recent years for the country, taxi drivers in the form of protest chosen, manage a more serious blow to the country's image internationally'. And the Association of Tourist and Travel Agencies of Greece (HATTA) also condemned the protest saying 'tourism is once again at the mercy of sudden trade union action.' Taxi drivers have warned of more blockades unless plans to liberalise the industry are scrapped.

Museums get a revamp
Greek museums revamp

Museums and archaeological sites across Greece and the Greek islands are getting a major upgrade over the next three years. The Ministry of Culture has given the go-ahead to plans for a major revamp of 20 museums and 149 archaeological sites to the highest A1 category. Up until now, no Greek museum or archaeological site, not even the Acropolis in Athens, has got an A1 category ranking. New upgrades will include the construction of large information signs, the installation of soft drink machines and toilets for the disabled and leaflets on museum exhibits issued in several languages and brochures issued in braille. Some sites will benefit from the installation of digital tours. As well as upgrades for archaeological sites and museums with large number of visitors, including the Acropolis in Athens, Knossos in Crete, Olympia and the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki there will also be improvements for smaller museums with less tourist traffic such as the Museum of Byzantine Culture, in Thessaloniki, and the Byzantine and Christian Museum, in Athens. The move will be welcomed by many taking holidays in the Greek islands but they may also result in increased charges for visitors. The Ministry said changes can be expected regarding the price of tickets and with the introduction of single, daily or weekly tickets. As many as 53 many museums and archaeological sites in Greece and the Greek islands have already had opening times extended this summer in a move designed to attract more visitors.

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