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10 January 2005

Greek and Athens Public Transport and Its Mysteries

It's better than it was, but there are still strange rules in the game

The system in public transport here is that passengers have to know how things work. When riding the bus you are expected to know when to get out. Bus stations are not announced. You are also mostly expected to guess that the bus to take is Nr. 117, where to get your ticket (in the bus, at the station, at the vending machine), and when taking the ticket at the vending machine which ticket you need. But things have improved, so read on for some hints...

What's bad?

Until a few years ago, all you got in Athens was that the busses had numbers and they were labeled with their destination, like "108 Kalamaki". But you had no idea if the bus was headed for the centre of Athens or for Kalamaki. Sometimes the label "Kalamaki" was missing too, and usually you would have to guess where the city endpoint of the line was. But what was and still is more problematic: You have to know which bus to take at all, there is no map that tells you for going from Athens to Nikaia which choices you might have. The OASA organization used to have such a map to mail to you, but they sold out. And don't expect something like that on public display.

The long distance busses "KTEL" have the similar problems, have to get out at a station midway? You better know when to get out yourself. Announcements when to switch the bus are often done without the microphone system and difficult to understand for foreigners. Going to Patras I was surprised by the ticket control guy, whose function I was barely able to guess from the reactions of surrounding passengers. Gotta know what this is.

In the Intercity train from Athens to Thessaloniki the station announcements where in Greek only and even knowing Greek most often not comprehensible. Stations are poorly labeled, so good luck if you don't want to go all the distance.

Things got better

So what improved? Lots of things: Athens bus stations are labeled much better, giving a list of the stations, including the direction you're currently facing and the endpoints. You get the approximate frequency, and the first and last scheduled departures from the start point. A lot of the trolley busses have displays that announce the next station (in greek letters, so you have to know at least these). In the Tram the situation is even better, computer screens inform you about the next 5 stops in latin and greek characters, and lately I have heard recorded announcements. On another interesting sidenote, few of my friends were able to tell me the name of their bus station. I guess they have the "have to know" system learned deep already.

The Metro (Subway) sports fancy announcements in Greek and English, plus it has Metro maps so you can see where to switch trains. Small problems arise in inter-category switching: The tram has one station as "SEF" (which is "Stadio Eirinis kai Filias", the old Olympic Stadium), while the Metro has it as "Neo Faliro" with a pictogram of the Stadium. Also getting out of the tram at that station you just follow the flock of passengers to know where the Metro is, don't expect any meaningful signs.

Look it up on the web

There is a website (OASA) where you can look up connections in the Athens area, but in some tries I did not have much success with it. Either the database had some problems, or else you would have to be able to guess how to formulate queries -- which would go with the general philosophy of public transport in Greece. The long distance busses have their website too (KTEL) but I haven't tried it, I don't think they would have had the bus schedules I needed on Limnos Island.

Tipps when coming for a visit

So what could you do when you come here for a visit and want to use public transports to go to a friends house?

Posted by betabug at 16:50 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
ch athens
Life in Athens (Greece) for a foreigner from the other side of the mountains. And with an interest in digital life and the feeling of change in a big city. Multilingual English - German - Greek.
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Re: Greek and Athens Public Transport and Its Mysteries

hi bum

Posted by: caleb at October 31,2007 01:07
Re: Greek and Athens Public Transport and Its Mysteries

Sorry but I got a bus in kifisia and I was going to my house and two guys stopped me inside the bus when I gave the ticket to validate and the bus was not moving and the guys said now you can not pass the ticket and they asked us to stop the next stop and they asked us to pay 30 euro per person and after that they tore the receipt and they said its ok if we pay 30 but not 60 ,I mean 30 euros per person.So they asked us at the time when we were about to pass the ticket and thats not fair in just seconds they got 60 euros !!!thanks and best regards.

Posted by: wilson milek at November 17,2007 22:37
Re: Greek and Athens Public Transport and Its Mysteries

Wilson, I can imagine shit like this happens. But I don't know why you come to *me* for this. Write a letter to OASA (address from their website) or something. I'm not the complaints department for them (or for anybody).

Posted by: betabug at November 18,2007 17:37
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