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Greek Island ferry hopping – Greek style

- by Andy Cornish

High winds and big waves make boarding this Greek ferry a scary operation.

Thousands of holiday visitors drive their cars onto Greek Island ferries over the summer holiday months but an island hopping trip in the car out of season can be a different proposition entirely.

Getting a car on board a ferry when the wind is blowing and the waters are choppy can turn out to be a tricky business, as this video shot on the island of Alonissos shows.

Nothing is too much trouble for the ferry crew of the Apollo Hellas as they give the drivers as much help as possible, but with the ferry boat riding high as the waves hit the harbour walls it is a small miracle that the drivers get aboard without being catapulted into the sea.

This film footage was shot in October when strong winds made hitting the boarding plank a hit and miss affair and drivers were forced to time their power run up the ramp at exactly the right moment.

High waves were really rocking the boat several feet above the harbour wall and leaving its boarding planks dangling in mid-air on each wave crest.

It was up to the drivers to punch their pedals at the exact moment that the ramps lay flat on the harbour wall – just a few seconds to get aboard safely.

Too soon and they risked ploughing into the raised ramps, too late and the car could have been flung into the air and into the raging sea. Scary to watch, even more scary to attempt.

Thankfully, they all got aboard safely but it gives a new meaning to island hopping on a Greek ferry. This one is the Apollo Hellas is operated by Hellenic Seaways.

It can carry 1,500 passengers and 98 cars and runs on the ferry route year round from Alonissos to the mainland port of Volos calling at the popular Greek holiday islands of Skopelos and Skiathos on the way.

Can I take a holiday rental car on a Greek Island ferry? This is a question often asked by holidaymakers and the answer, unfortunately, is not very often.

Many car rental agencies in Greece, especially those that operate on smaller islands, do not allow customers to take their hire cars for a ride on a Greek ferry.

Cars can get 'stranded' on other islands in bad weather or, if they are involved in an accident on another island, recovery can be a very expensive operation.

Also, there is the increased danger of damage on a ferry as holiday car hire visitors try to manoeuvre vehicles in the small deck area aboard or indeed if someone else bumps into them.

In practice, island visitors will often rent a car and drive it aboard a Greek ferry anyway without telling the car rental agency of their plans.

That is fine if nothing goes wrong, but it can prove a very expensive trip if things don't go to plan and the car gets damaged or stolen on the 'wrong' island and insurance companies refuse to pay out.

Given the huge availability of car hire on most Greek islands, most holidaymakers will choose rent a vehicle for a few days on one island, hop on a ferry as a foot passenger and hire another car of motorcycle when they get to their destination.

On small islands like Alonissos, most of the resorts are within walking distance of the port, have a bus service or are reached by taxi anyway.

If you do hire a car in Greece, take nor that driving can be more stressful than at home. Roads in the Greek Islands are not always the best and streets through villages can be very narrow and confusingly complicated. Signs are often absent, small or even just plain wrong.

Many roads have few lights and with narrow lanes, steep bends and sharp drops, driving at night can be a real challenge. Greek drivers too are not the most courteous and holiday drivers should expect nothing but contempt and a few sharp 'toots' on the horn.

That said, if you want experience the real back roads of Greece, especially on larger islands, then hiring a car is almost essential. But whatever you do, don't try to board a ferry in high winds and choppy seas.

The video was filmed by Dimitris Papavasileiou.
Article based on a story published by Keep Talking Greece