How to travel by bus in Greece
In this post, we are going to give a few tips and bits of advice on how to better organize your trip around Greece by public bus. Being involved with tourism for the past many years we came to realize how difficult it is for foreign travelers to find bus schedules around Greece, especially for places outside the tourist map. In this post will try to help you find relevant information not easily accessible for nonnative people, making the task of preparing an itinerary to travel by bus a bit easier. If you are looking to find information on how to get to Meteora by bus you may also check the following links here and here for more details!
Generally speaking, the process of finding the correct bus to travel in Greece it’s a very complicated thing indeed, mainly because of the way the bus companies formed in the past and how they operate today. In order to better understand Greek busses and how they work, we need first to briefly explain the past and present situation of bus companies in Greece. For many decades, Greek state severely lacked modern infrastructure on highways and railways, thus many places around Greece were fairly isolated. This made any journey by car long and difficult. A truly Odyssey of its own! So, the Greek state in order to overcome this problem decided to form what is known today as KTEL bus companies. The state sold public bus licenses to individuals who then bought busses in order to be eligible to join the KTEL company of their prefecture. The bus owners and the KTEL companies that formed enjoy to this day the monopoly for intercity public bus services around Greece and in exchange they are obliged by law to connect with shuttle services every village and settlement, irrelevant how small or remote might be within the boundaries of their prefecture.
This monopoly KTEL companies enjoy is an indirect way of the Greek state to subsidize them to provide public transportation to commercially unviable routes. Although every KTEL company can freely choose to connect via bus services every other place around Greece, they can only transfer people up to the main bus terminals of those prefectures, located always on the provincial capitals. When someone wants to travel to a different place other than the main city within this prefecture, he has to use the local KTEL company and switch busses. Usually, KTEL companies when operating outside of the prefecture’s boundaries, they only do the commercially viable route. This means that although bus companies operate a very dense network of bus routes within each prefecture, it’s quite difficult to find direct connections between distant places of different prefectures around Greece. The exception to this is the bigger population centers like Athens or Thessaloniki. The end result of such practices is that those travelers who opt public buses as their mean of transportation in most cases will have to switch many busses. Having said all these one must consider the bus option in just 3 cases listed below:
- When you want to travel from either Athens or Thessaloniki to any other place around Greece and vice-versa
- When you wish to travel from point A to point B within the boundaries of a specific prefecture
- When you have no other option left
Note that all public buses belonging to KTEL companies are painted olive green having also white stripes in some cases.
Each KTEL bus company regularly connects the provincial capital, in which its based and the biggest cities of Greece like Athens or Thessaloniki, but there is no guarantee that they’ll connect all the other different prefectures around Greece. In case you can’t find a direct bus connection you must reach either Athens or Thessaloniki and from the there it’s guaranteed that you will find the bus you wish since all KTEL companies they connect those 2 destinations. For example, if you wish to travel from Kalambaka-Meteora to Sparta, located in southern Peloponnese, there is no direct bus connection between those two places. You must first choose KTEL Trikalon bus company to travel from Meteora (Meteora is located in the prefecture of Trikala) to Athens. From Athens, you’ll have to continue to Sparta by booking with KTEL Lakonias bus company.
Please Note here that there are two bus terminals in Athens: One called Liosion Bus Terminal, for all KTEL companies located and operating north of Athens and a second one called Kifissou Bus Terminal for the KTEL bus companies operating south of Athens, mainly involving Peloponnese. All KTEL bus companies of Greece will either start from there or they’ll end their trips to those two bus terminals of Athens. So, in case of the above example when one arrives at Liossion Bus Terminal arriving from the north and wants to continue traveling by bus to Sparta which is south Peloponnese will have to reach Kifissou Bus Terminal to continue the bus trip.
So, if we break the whole process on how to book the correct bus from point A to point B we have the following steps:
STEP 1: Identify correctly the prefecture on the map from where you intend to start your trip and the prefecture of your final destination. Find the proper Greek names of the prefectures. The public bus companies are always identified by two words: “KTEL” in front and the “name” of the prefecture they are based.
STEP 2: Go to the list we provide below with all the KTEL bus companies around Greece and the links we give to check the bus schedules. Choose the link with the KTEL bus company of the prefecture you intend to travel and make sure that there is a direct bus connection between destinations.
STEP 3: If there is a direct connection then you can proceed by booking your seats via the online booking system if provided on the site. Please note that many bus companies they don’t have an online booking system. In this case, you’ll have to buy the tickets on the spot or you can politely ask hotels receptions or someone to help you reserve the bus seats. In most cases, you can reserve your seats via phone if you speak Greek.
STEP 4: If you don’t find a direct bus connection then… Houston we’ve got a problem! Now, don’t be disapointed. This doesn’t mean that there is no solution. It only means that the trip might take a bit longer. Check the next step…
STEP 5: In the above case, all KTEL bus companies connect Athens or Thessaloniki on a regular basis. So, identify the closest place on the way to those two cities to get off the bus to catch another KTEL company. One such example is when you travel from Trikala to Delphi. You must catch the bus from Trikala to Athens and get down at Lamia. From Lamia and its “KTEL Fthiotidos” take the bus to Amfissa, and then switch bus company again to “KTEL Fokidas” to reach Delphi.
Below we have the entire list with links of KTEL bus companies around Greece
Some of them they don’t have a website, so you’ll only find the phone numbers and some that do have a website they don’t have it in English
KTEL Androu (Andros island)
KTEL Argolidas (Nafplio)
KTEL Attikis (Athens)
KTEL Achaias (Patra port)
KTEL Zakynthou (Zakynthos)
KTEL Ileias (ancient Olympia)
KTEL Heraklion – Lassithi (Crete)
KTEL Thiras (Santorini island)
KTEL Ioanninon (Igoumenitsa)
KTEL Kerkyras (Corfu)
KTEL Lakonias (Sparta-Mani)
KTEL Lesvou (Lesvos island)
KTEL Magnisias (Volos- Mount Pelion)
KTEL Messinias (Kalamata)
KTEL Mykonou (Mykonos island)
KTEL Naxou (Naxos)
KTEL Parou (Paros island)
KTEL Pierias (Mount Olympus)
KTEL Rodou (Rhodes island)
KTEL Samou (Samos island)
KTEL Tinou (Tinos island)
KTEL Trikalon (Meteora)
KTEL Fthiotidos (Lamia)
KTEL Fokidas (Amfissa-Delphi-Athens)
KTEL Chanion – Rethimnou (Crete)
KTEL Chiou (Chios island)