Tom and I are no strangers to bus travel. In fact, it’s one of our preferred travel methods. Not only is it an affordable way to get from point A to point B, but we love how it enables you to meet new people, see sights along the way, and is environmentally friendly. Greece, however, posed some unique challenges that we hadn’t encountered before while out questing. Since their bus system caused us confusion during our initial planning, we’ve created a guide on the best way to arrange bus travel throughout Greece.
No National Bus Service
The first thing you need to learn is that there isn’t one central service or resource you can book your bus travel through within Greece. Instead, each region or county has their own bus company. Routes are then determined based on popularity and need.
While a few of the most popular routes will have a dedicated long-distance bus (such as Athens to Thessaloniki), the majority of the time you’ll have to make manual connections between bus lines to get to a destination. This isn’t difficult, as the buses typically run on schedule, but it can be frustrating when trying to piece together your travel route.
Find Information for the Nearest Intercity Bus Service
Start by visiting the intercity bus website for the town/city you’re departing from. This will allow you to find the nearest station to your location, as well as learn the routes that bus station services.
The bus line for each region will have a unique name, which is almost impossible to guess, especially if you don’t read or write the Greek alphabet. The one thing they all have in common though is the acronym KTEL. To find the bus service for your area try searching “KTEL” + the name of the city or town.
ProTip: Thankfully many (but not all) of the KTEL websites have an English translation option. If, however, they only offer the site in Greek, we recommend Google’s Website Translator which can switch the webpage to a language you understand.
Reference a Map
We found it helpful to reference a map while reviewing the KTEL bus routes. This way you can see where you’re starting, where you need to end up, and all the destinations in between. It’s a great way to see potential transit hubs along your route. Generally speaking, the larger the town/city, the bigger the bus hub they’ll have.
Piece Together Your Bus Route
After you’ve reviewed all potential bus routes from your starting destination, pick the best one. The best route should be a combination of distance traveled plus size of town/city it’ll deposit you in. Remember, it’s important that you end in a good hub for onward travel.
From there, it’s a matter of rinse and repeat. You’ll need to look up the KTEL website for the town you hope to transfer in and then determine the best way to continue on your journey from there. Eventually you should then have multiple bus routes which you can string together to get you to your final destination. In our experience we only ever needed to make 1-2 manual connections in a trip.
Double Check Travel Dates and Times
Once you have your connections worked out, double check the times that each bus line runs. Since each bus route is individualized for the zone it’s in, some will only operate a few times during the day, or even a few days throughout the week. You need to ensure the departure times line up correctly, so the trip is feasible in one go and on the day you plan to travel.
Personal Story: One leg of our journey was from Kalambaka to Corfu. Every Wednesday the city has a direct bus service between the two towns. Unfortunately, we planned to travel on a Thursday, which meant we instead had to make manual connections. Once we pieced together the route, we realized there were only two buses we could catch out of Kalambaka that would ensure we arrived in Corfu that same evening. If we hadn’t checked timing for the entire route, we likely would have ended up stranded mid-way between destinations, and had to overnight somewhere before continuing on the next day.
ProTip: If you’re having difficultly piecing together a bus route, try contacting the hotel in either your starting or end destination to ask for assistance. We did this with one leg of our trip and they were able to provide the exact bus route we’d want to book.
Most Greece bus routes cannot be booked online in advance. Your best option is to arrive at the bus terminal early (perhaps even a day or two beforehand if you’re concerned about availability) to schedule your departure out of town. You’ll then be able to purchase the remaining bus tickets along the journey as you reach each subsequent bus station.
In our experience none of the buses were ever 100% full, and we were traveling in peak tourist season (August). However, we still recommend trying to give yourself one bus worth of buffer just in case. That way if your first bus is delayed, or the bus you’re transferring to is full, you’ll still have time to make it to your desired destination that day.
What else should people know about bus travel in Greece? Leave us your recommendations below.